John and Alexander Forrest mounted while Aboriginal guide Tommy Windich cheers (Sept 27 1874) Courtesy of West Australian Newspapers uncredited images from archival and contemporary sources.
The two decades between 1846-1865 were marked by 'roving settler expeditions.' It was the beginning of an outward movement that would eventually open up the Murchison, Gascoyne, Pilbara and the Kimberley.
The two Gregory brothers, Augustus and Francis, were the first in 1946 to head northwards on settler-sponsored expeditions that resulted in the opening up of large areas of what is now known as the Gascoyne, Ashburton and Greenough regions. Another expedition under the leadership of Francis in 1861 opened up the northern pastoral areas in the Pilbara region. This expedition saw the crew of the Dolphin collect pearls at Nickol Bay and load several tonnes of shell, and would ultimately lead to the pearling industry being established in the North West, with its unfortunate exploitation of the local coastal Aboriginal people as free labour.
The last great exploration expedition to generate public excitement was that undertaken by Alexander Forrest in 1879 when he journeyed from the Pilbara to Beagle Bay and then along the Fitzroy River to the Victoria River in the Northern Territory. He estimated that there was 10,000,000 hectares of land suitable for grazing sheep and cattle. He also suggested that copper and gold might be discovered.